Many British construction companies have grown by developing overseas. While this brings great opportunities and benefits it also presents many challenges. Over the coming years, export plays a key role in the government’s strategy for economic development. Whether this exporting involves the EU, or one of the new blocks such as the BRICS, MINT, or RISE countries, these are nations that have relatively little exposure to English in their business communications. To target these nations and communicate effectively, it will become more and more important for British business to be able to speak their language.

While most companies are aware of the need to reach out to clients in their own words, there is still an underlying issue of quality. More and more research is showing the “can’t read, won’t buy” problem. Clients who can’t understand a website, brochure or sales presentation, or find it “strangely written” or “written like a translation” are far less likely to buy products or services. Where, in recent decades, British companies were not attempting to translate anything into the client’s local languages, the issue today revolves more around the usability of the translations. This means there is an increasing emphasis on quality and precision.

The need to use specialist linguists cannot be overstated. A civil engineering translator who works on technical engineering documents should be able to understand the same documents and terminology that a working civil engineer would be expected to know. A legal translator should understand how legal terms work in both languages, and be able to match the correct term to the correct idea, rather than just translating from a dictionary. These specialist translation tasks require much more than a simple languages background. Modern translators need to be “engineers who translate” rather than “linguists who try to do engineering”. In some ways, we can think of translating as being similar to “rewriting something in your own words”, imagine trying to do that with a specialist document outside your field. It’s virtually impossible to get good results.

Another important point to remember is that translation is far too often a “distressed sell”. Clients only start looking when the already need a document translated; many smaller companies are reduced to going onto their internet search engine in a panic. The result of this is that there are hundreds of very similar translation agencies with no differentiating skills, all paying a fortune to get onto the front page of search engines.

We recommend being proactive and finding a good languages partner when you have plenty of time to evaluate them properly. Make sure they have the skills and ability to deliver your projects to the required quality, every time. The net result will be better sales overseas, and more growth for British business overseas.

Written by David Smith – Managing Director, Constructive Translations
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